My gosh, what a beat-down!

By now, everyone interested in professional bass fishing has heard of the frog-a-rama going on at the Bass Pro Tour event on the Kissimmee Chain. Fans and haters alike can’t help but watch in awe as Jordan Lee and Brandon Coulter trade blows using only one lure – a hollow-bodied frog – on big Lake Toho.

Only a few minutes of viewing confirms that this is the most epic frog bite in the history of professional fishing. Guys like me can think back to other toad battles, but nothing compares to what’s happening at this moment (I’m guessing, writing this on Wednesday). It’s literally call-your-shot fishing.

Who wouldn’t want to be in that situation? Fish eclipsing 7 pounds have fallen victim to the topwater menace, plowing through matted hydrilla and producing some of the most epic blowups ever captured on film. No, this is not April Fool’s Day.

After successive fish catches by Coulter, commentator JT Kenny could only proclaim “this … this is unbelievable.”

So what caused the perfect storm, and will we ever see it again?

The answer lies in basic logic, but also some insight you won’t find anywhere else. In fact, I didn’t hear the finer details mentioned from the experts.

Most bass anglers don’t think of Florida as a premier destination in May. They travel to the Sunshine State in winter to escape the cold, fish prespawn giants and go home thinking they’ve seen it all. But Florida offers great postspawn bassing as well. Large numbers of fish remain shallow, eating up all the bluegill and shiners that once terrorized the spawning sites.

Typically, that occurs in April. This year, however, spring was late in Florida, like it was in much of the South, and we’ve seen waves of spawners later than most years. Postspawners followed in the delay. So we had a body of water a little behind, holding big numbers of fish shallow when the tournament began.

The primary reason for the frog-fest, though, lies in the habitat. The Kissimmee Chain – specifically Lake Toho – currently hosts extreme amounts of hydrilla. It’s often wondered by anglers why such habitat seems to ebb and flow, the resulting fishing doing the same. Take a walk with me down the complicated management trail of Florida.

As we know, Florida is host to hundreds of waters affected daily by invasive vegetation. That grass most often comes in the form of hydrilla and water hyacinth – plants loved by bass and bass fishermen, but most often scorned by lakeside residents and water managers.

As a result, a battle often ensues between the usability of the lake and the appeal to fish and wildlife.
Whereas fish often lose the war, managers are more readily considering the fall-out from overdoing things in term of plant eradication.

In short, there’s a certain amount of money and material to go around in Florida. The budget for herbicides (spray) would blow your mind, but that’s not the point. Instead, what we need to drive home is that the agency in charge of managing hydrilla in Lake Toho, in this case the Florida FWC, has stated that a budget shortage existed last season, resulting in less management. In essence, a few lakes were taken off the spray list by the FWC in order to utilize existing resources elsewhere. Please understand that this is a condensed version, but summarizes statements given from contacts with the FWC’s Invasive Plant Management group.

Coincidentally, two of the lakes taken off the treatment list were Lake Toho and Orange Lake – the same bodies of water currently experiencing the best fishing in Central Florida. Both, also, currently have tremendous coverage of hydrilla.

It’s easy to think that simply “stopping the spray” is the answer to our prayers. Perhaps that’s true. But it’s also important to consider a few overlooked pitfalls.

First, the gigantic amount of dense vegetation in Toho makes thing looks easy. But what we may actually be witnessing is the result of a condensed environment. You see, when hydrilla reaches the point that it appears to be at in Toho, a large amount of the lake becomes unusable for bass, pushing the fish into areas where they can continue to hunt and feed successfully, and the water conditions support a healthy ecosystem. While the entire lake looks “fishy”, often only areas with large holes and canopies hold bass. The BPT pros – being really good at finding "the juice" – exploit that situation. In fact, at the current Toho event, Coulter mentioned that only small, select areas were housing any bass at all.

Second, be careful what you wish for. On more than one occasion, massive coverage of hydrilla has led to catastrophic fish kills under certain conditions. The reason lies in reduced oxygen in a system during periods of prolonged cloud cover. Warm water adds to the threat. Bigger fish are more often affected than smaller bass. In essence, a perfect storm for Florida, and specifically for Lake Toho, might be just a month or two away.

So that’s where we’re at. After watching Jordan Lee wrestle countless monsters, I envision him driving home and throwing his rods in the garbage, literally destroyed from battle. I ponder if Brandon Coulter realizes that he’s experiencing the best fishing of his life, the likes of which most of us will never see.

And I wonder what fate awaits Lake Toho.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)